Economists say a recession tends to be an emotional thing; something that happens when confidence goes away, and people start hunkering down. On Tuesday, state economist Tom Stinson said Minnesota is already in a recession. Then, Gov. Tim Pawlenty dismissed the views of the guy the state turns to for these sorts of things by saying, "Tom Stinson tends to be a bit on the pessimistic side of things, to put it charitably." Smack!
It's natural for politicians to criticize the experts -- Stinson is widely acclaimed for his ability -- but it doesn't give the average Joe much confidence that name-calling at the start of a recession is going to lead to a reasonable plan to end it.
Let's face it, the steady drum beat of bad news makes it tough to be Mr. Sunshine where the economy is concerned. Macy's just announced it's cutting jobs. Northwest is about not to be a Minnesota-based airline. 3M is pulling the plug on 1,000 St. Paul jobs, and has eliminated 800 Minnesota jobs in a little over a year. The Ford plant is closing. A lot of people blame the media for the bad news, but those are the facts.
Even if Stinson is a pessimist, it's hard to find people who know the economy who aren't.
"There is certainly enough out there to make people worry," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York in this morning's St. Louis Post Dispatch. "We think we are getting very close to a recession."
For Minnesotans, if you work in a factory, you should probably be most worried, followed by construction workers, and those in the information industry -- that's me -- according to the state employment report. Those are the two areas that have lost the most jobs in the last year. If you're in the travel and leisure industry, business wasn't awful in December but Steve Hine, the Labor Market Information Director at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said today that that's one area that could be hurt if people stop spending.
On the other hand, he says, there are "counter-cyclical" occupations that tend to weather downturns better: health care, career counseling, even psychiatric counseling.
But there's another problem: inflation. You'd have to be pretty old -- in working-age years -- to remember what inflation can do. Gerald Ford, was so frustrated by it that the best he could do was try to get everyone to wear a "Whip inflation now" button. It didn't work. During the subsequent Carter administration inflation rose about 10 percent a year.
Are those days back? Not quite. But new government data says it's a bigger problem now than at any time in 17 years. The combination of inflation and recession is rarely pretty.
So now the big question: are you worried? How is the economy making you change the way you live, if at all? Aside from the economic mumbo jumbo, I think recessions are personal things. Even if we keep our jobs, we worry more or less. I'd like to assemble a small group of individuals around the state to talk about this regularly as we go through this period. Are you up for it?(1 Comments)
Posted at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2008
by Bob Collins
Perhaps it was only matter of time, but Randy Moss today became a distraction to the almost-Super-Bowl-bound New England Patriots.
The Boston Globe has Moss's reaction this afternoon to a Florida radio station report that a woman "filed for an order of protection against Moss, alleging he committed battery against her. The report said a temporary injunction was issued, barring Moss from coming within 500 feet of the woman and from using or possessing firearms." (Video available here)
It's the reaction by Moss that will likely raise eyebrows among the formerly faithful in Minnesota.
"I want to make something clear: In my whole entire life of living 30 years, I've never put my hand on one woman, physically or in an angry manner."
Technically true. He used a car before.
A look at what other states are doing as a result of Tuesday's NTSB determination that the design of gussets were at fault in the I-35W bridge collapse.
Alabama - Alabama Department of Transportation officials today will begin checking the stress levels and thickness of gusset plates on the state's three deck-truss bridges.
Michigan - "We're confident in the way they're designed, but also we're prepared to do whatever follow-up or recommended action the Federal Highway Administration may ask us to do," Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Shreck said. "We'll do whatever it takes to make sure our bridges are safe."
Missouri - A study of Missouri's 232 truss bridges on the state highway system is focusing on the gusset plates used in their design, according to a statement issued by Pete Rahn, Missouri Department of Transportation director. "We don't expect to find anything that is compromising the safety of these bridges," Rahn said. "All our bridges are inspected regularly and are designed to safely handle traffic, or else we'd close them right away. But we need to double-check and make sure all our truss bridges are safe because we cannot let what happened in Minnesota happen here in Missouri."
Ohio - The Ohio Department of Transportation said Wednesday it's ahead of the curve in bridge inspections and already carefully examines the steel plates that connect bridge beams.
Pennsylvania - As a result of the Minneapolis collapse, PennDOT spent $1.9 million on extra inspections of 28 steel truss bridges it maintains. An unknown amount was spent on similar inspections by county and municipal governments. State officials are trying to get more information from the federal government on the extent of the testing required in the wake of Tuesday's announcement.
Washington state - The 26 state-owned truss-deck bridges, similar to the one that collapsed in Minneapolis, have been checked within the last year and inspectors have found no problems with their gussets, said state bridge maintenance engineer Harvey Coffman.(2 Comments)
As anyone with an ounce of fashion sense knows -- or so I've heard -- there are many shades of black -- until today.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York announced they have developed "the closest thing yet to the ideal black material, which absorbs light perfectly at all angles and over all wavelengths." It's the darkest material ever made by humans and it is said to be a boon to the future of electronics and solar panels.(3 Comments)
It's about hair dryers.(1 Comments)
Tasers became an integral police tool largely on the strength of the argument that authorities ought to be able to restrain someone without having to shoot them to do it. The news today that five state troopers were involved somehow in using tasers on a driver who was combative in New Brighton, though rare in these parts, is an incident that may well be added to a growing list of deaths by Taser. The Fridley man was pronounced dead at the hospital. It hasn't been determined if the tasering was the reason.
Other incidents: In North Carolina a man high on crack died after being shot with a Taser when he became combative last Wednesday. On the same day, a Coral Gables, Florida man died. A few days earlier, a man was killed by Taser by the Nevada Highway Patrol. And a few days before that, a death was reported in Alabama.
Police use of Tasers came under more scrutiny with the release last fall of the last minutes of a passenger in an airport in Vancouver, tasered to death by the RCMP.
At the same time, a quick search reveals dozens of instances in which officers using Tasers successfully subdued criminal suspects without shooting them.
So what do we have here? A weapon being misused? Or misunderstood?
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center (FSRC) at Minnesota State University-Mankato, told Police-One.com that even a temporary ban on Tasers "would literally create a catastrophe for peace officers. Lawsuits would increase, officer injuries would increase, subject injuries would increase-all guaranteed. We need additional research, but we don't need to stop using a unique tool that experience has proven is effective and overwhelmingly safe while more investigation is underway."
Two years ago the Dade County (Florida) Commissioners commissioned a study on the stun gun. The results, released by the Police Executive Forum, an organization of police chiefs, suggested better training.
For example, the group suggested a person be shot -- err, shocked -- once, then evaluated, rather than repeatedly shocked.
An article on the report, coincidentally, appeared in today's Miami Herald, following the death last week of a man.
In 2006, a man died in Wisconsin after being shot, prompting the ACLU to call for more training. The organization cited the work of University of Wisconsin biomedical engineering professor John Webster, who demonstrated that Tasers can cause cardiac ventricular fibrillation – a precursor of cardiac arrest – in pigs. "Particularly in susceptible populations, such as the young, the elderly or those with obvious medical conditions, Tasers must be presumed capable of causing cardiac arrest in humans as well," the group said.
The debate has been underway across the country for some time. Because of Tuesday night's incident, it is has now arrived in Minnesota.
(h/t Tom Klun)(11 Comments)